Genetic and functional analyses of SHANK2 mutations suggest a multiple hit model of autism spectrum disorders.

Human Genetics and Cognitive Functions, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France.
PLoS Genetics (Impact Factor: 8.17). 02/2012; 8(2):e1002521. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1002521
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are a heterogeneous group of neurodevelopmental disorders with a complex inheritance pattern. While many rare variants in synaptic proteins have been identified in patients with ASD, little is known about their effects at the synapse and their interactions with other genetic variations. Here, following the discovery of two de novo SHANK2 deletions by the Autism Genome Project, we identified a novel 421 kb de novo SHANK2 deletion in a patient with autism. We then sequenced SHANK2 in 455 patients with ASD and 431 controls and integrated these results with those reported by Berkel et al. 2010 (n = 396 patients and n = 659 controls). We observed a significant enrichment of variants affecting conserved amino acids in 29 of 851 (3.4%) patients and in 16 of 1,090 (1.5%) controls (P = 0.004, OR = 2.37, 95% CI = 1.23-4.70). In neuronal cell cultures, the variants identified in patients were associated with a reduced synaptic density at dendrites compared to the variants only detected in controls (P = 0.0013). Interestingly, the three patients with de novo SHANK2 deletions also carried inherited CNVs at 15q11-q13 previously associated with neuropsychiatric disorders. In two cases, the nicotinic receptor CHRNA7 was duplicated and in one case the synaptic translation repressor CYFIP1 was deleted. These results strengthen the role of synaptic gene dysfunction in ASD but also highlight the presence of putative modifier genes, which is in keeping with the "multiple hit model" for ASD. A better knowledge of these genetic interactions will be necessary to understand the complex inheritance pattern of ASD.


Available from: Martin Poot, Apr 17, 2015
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects as many as 1 in 68 children and is said to be the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the United States. There is currently no medical cure or diagnostic test for ASD. Furthermore, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve a single drug for the treatment of autism's core symptoms. Despite numerous genome studies and the identification of hundreds of genes that may cause or predispose children to ASD, the pathways underlying the pathogenesis of idiopathic ASD still remain elusive. Post-mortem brain samples, apart from being difficult to obtain, offer little insight into a disorder that arises through the course of development. Furthermore, ASD is a disorder of highly complex, human-specific behaviors, making it difficult to model in animals. Stem cell models of ASD can be generated by performing skin biopsies of ASD patients and then dedifferentiating these fibroblasts into human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs). iPSCs closely resemble embryonic stem cells and retain the unique genetic signature of the ASD patient from whom they were originally derived. Differentiation of these iPSCs into neurons essentially recapitulates the ASD patient's neuronal development in a dish, allowing for a patient-specific model of ASD. Here we review our current understanding of the underlying neurobiology of ASD and how the use of stem cells can advance this understanding, possibly leading to new therapeutic avenues.
    The Yale journal of biology and medicine 03/2015; 88(1):5-16.
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Children affected by Specific Language Impairment (SLI) fail to acquire age appropriate language skills despite adequate intelligence and opportunity. SLI is highly heritable, but the understanding of underlying genetic mechanisms has proved challenging. In this study, we use molecular genetic techniques to investigate an admixed isolated founder population from the Robinson Crusoe Island (Chile), who are affected by a high incidence of SLI, increasing the power to discover contributory genetic factors. We utilize exome sequencing in selected individuals from this population to identify eight coding variants that are of putative significance. We then apply association analyses across the wider population to highlight a single rare coding variant (rs144169475, Minor Allele Frequency of 4.1% in admixed South American populations) in the NFXL1 gene that confers a nonsynonymous change (N150K) and is significantly associated with language impairment in the Robinson Crusoe population (p = 2.04 × 10-4, 8 variants tested). Subsequent sequencing of NFXL1 in 117 UK SLI cases identified four individuals with heterozygous variants predicted to be of functional consequence. We conclude that coding variants within NFXL1 confer an increased risk of SLI within a complex genetic model.
    PLoS Genetics 03/2015; 11(3):e1004925. DOI:10.1371/journal.pgen.1004925 · 8.17 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Post mortem brain tissue data and animal modeling work indicate cholinergic disruptions in autism. Moreover, the cholinergic system plays a key role in the early neurodevelopmental processes believed to be derailed early in life in individuals with the disorder. Yet, there is no data from human infants supporting a developmentally important role of this neurotransmitter system. Because the pupillary light reflex depends largely on cholinergic synaptic transmission, we assessed this reflex in a sample of infants at risk for autism as well as infants at low (average) risk. Ten-month-old infants with an older sibling with autism (n = 29, 16 females), and thus a genetic predisposition to developing the disorder themselves, were presented with white flashes on a computer monitor, and pupillary responses were captured using eye tracking. A control group matched on age and developmental level (n = 15, seven females) was also tested. The siblings of children with autism had a faster and stronger pupillary light reflex compared to control infants. Baseline pupil diameter was equal in the two groups, ruling out tonic autonomic imbalance as an explanation for these differences. This study establishes that infant siblings of children with autism have hypersensitive pupillary light reflexes, a result which supports the view that altered sensory processing in infancy is associated with elevated autism risk. Moreover, the study indicates that individual differences in autism susceptibility are linked to differences in the cholinergic system during an early developmental period.
    Molecular Autism 03/2015; 6:10. DOI:10.1186/s13229-015-0011-6 · 5.49 Impact Factor